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Designing Pigments for Optimal Performance in Chemical Toners

Angelos Kyrlidis, Anne Shim, Cabot Corporation, Billerica, MA 01821, USA

Carbon black has historically been used in
electrophotographic toners as a black pigment. Its properties
influence some of the key performance attributes of the toner,
including the printed image density and the toner's electrical
characteristics. In the last decade demand for higher resolution
and lower cost printing has driven significant improvements in
toner performance. These changes have shifted the production of
new toners from the conventional pulverization process to more
complex chemical processes. In these new processes, carbon black
and the other pigments are typically first dispersed into a liquid
matrix (aqueous or organic solvent or monomer) and are then
incorporated into the toner particle either by chemical assembly
processes, such as emulsion aggregation, or direct polymerization.
Throughout the various process steps the carbon black needs to
remain dispersed in the matrix to optimize the performance.
Cabot has developed surface modification technology that
allows the design of the carbon black surface chemistry to match
the properties of its surrounding matrix. In this presentation we
will explore the sensitivity of the carbon black dispersion quality to
changes in the polymer properties. We will also demonstrate how
careful control of the surface chemistry can enhance the dispersion
of the carbon black.
Toner particles have always been pigmented polymer
composites that contain enough pigment (black or color) to yield
the appropriate image characteristics after transfer and fusion to
the paper. Carbon black has been the dominant black pigment and
its morphology and properties influence both the color properties
of the toner and its electrical charging characteristics [1]. Both of
these properties depend on the quality of the dispersion of the
carbon black in the composites. Historically toner particles have
been prepared by compounding the pigments into the polymers
followed by a grinding/classification process. As the demand has
increased for lower total cost of ownership and higher resolution
printing, the toner industry has shifted its manufacturing processes
to chemical processes, as illustrated in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Steps in Chemical Toner Preparation and Use

In these processes the pigments are dispersed first in a liquid
phase (water, solvent, or monomer depending on the process), and
are then incorporated into the polymer either through an
agglomeration process or through polymerization around the
pigments. In both of these cases, there is no further dispersion of
the pigment into the toner polymer. This creates a challenge for
both the toner formulators and the pigment suppliers, as the
pigments need to remain dispersed in phases that are chemically
very different without the application of any mechanical energy.
In this paper we describe some advances in the design of
modified carbon black particles that enables the design of the
surface energy of the pigments to allow for customization of their
compatibility with the surrounding matrix. Applications that
illustrate the effects of different surface chemistries on polymer
compatibility will be described.
Carbon Black and Surface Modification
Carbon black is manufactured by the thermal decomposition
of hydrocarbons and consists of elemental carbon in the form of
nearly spherical primary particles of colloidal size, fused into
aggregates. These aggregates form larger agglomerates during the
carbon black densification. Through control of the manufacturing
conditions, it is possible to independently control the size of the
primary particles, and the number of primary particles fused into
the aggregates, manifested indirectly in the size of the aggregates.
A transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of a typical
toner carbon black grade is shown in Figure 2. The physical
properties of carbon black that are indirect measures of these two
fundamental properties are its surface area (m
/g) and its oil
absorption number (OAN ml/100g). Existing carbon black
grades cover a broad range of morphologies to provide aggregates
having performance targeted to the end use. The carbon black
grades used in toner applications have a balanced primary particle
size and structure to allow for good color properties, ease of
dispersion, while providing controlled electrical resistivity to the
toner to allow for the design of its charging characteristics.

Primary Particle

Figure 2. Morphology of carbon black particles.

Cabot has developed proprietary chemical modification
technologies that can be used to alter the surface chemistry of the
pigment. One type of chemical modification technology utilizes
diazonium salt intermediates to attach a variety of functional
Toner Particle
Toner Particle
72 Society for Imaging Science and Technology
Reprinted from NIP24 and Digital Fabrication 2008 Final Program and Proceedings

groups to carbon black [2]. The reaction chemistry is summarized
in Figure 3. The treating agent contains a functional group R,
which can be varied according to the application requirements.

Figure 3. Chemistry of Carbon Black Surface Modification.

Pigment treatment technologies, such as the diazonium
treatment technology can allow not only the control of the surface
chemistry of the modified carbon blacks, but also the control of the
extent of modification. The surface coverage is optimized by
varying the stoichiometry per unit surface area of the carbon black;
typically the coverage reaches a maximum at levels corresponding
to the theoretical coverage with a monolayer of functional groups,
which is a strong function of their size and shape. This surface
modification technology enables the control of the surface energy
of the modified carbon black (MCB) pigment. For this study we
have prepared carbon blacks that have distinctly different surface
groups at similar coverage levels (see Table 1) and studied their
compatibility with a variety of systems.

Table 1. Range of modified carbon blacks prepared for
testing with toner polymers (patent pending).
Carbon Functionality
Base Carbon None
MCB 1 Aromatic
MCB 2 Alkyl-aromatic
MCB 3 Alkyl ester of aromatic
MCB 4 Oxidized
MCB 5 Strong acid
Characterization of Carbon Black Surface
The surface energy of the modified carbon blacks described in
Table 1 was characterized using water adsorption measurements.
These measurements are very sensitive to the type of functional
groups that are on the carbon black surface and allowed us to rank
the hydrophilicity of the materials relative to the starting carbon.
The results are summarized in Figure 4 below. As expected the
aromatic and alkyl-substituted aromatic carbons (MCB 1, MCB
2) are slightly more hydrophobic than the starting material, while
the attachment of oxygen containing functional groups increase the
hydrophilicity of the surface. Alkyl ester groups (MCB - 3) are still
quite hydrophobic compared to carbons functionalized with strong
acid groups (MCB 5). As expected an oxidized version of the
base carbon black (MCB 4) appears to have more moderate

Figure 4. Hydrophilicity of modified carbon blacks relative to
base material.
Preparation of Toner Polymer Composites
The characterization of the compatibility of the modified
carbon blacks with the polymers can be evaluated without
preparing chemical toner, as it is not dictated by the kinetics of the
toner particle assembly processes but rather by the inherent
thermodynamics of the particle-polymer interactions. In order to
probe the compatibility of the various modified carbon blacks with
polymers we have prepared composites using traditional melt
mixing techniques. For this study we have used three typical toner
polymers (two styrene acrylics and one polyester) to illustrate the
effects of surface chemistry on polymer compatibility.
The samples are prepared in three stages. First the Brabender
mixer head is preheated to the desired temperature, the mixer is
turned on, and a premix of carbon black and polymer is poured
into the mixing chamber slowly. The materials are typically mixed
for 30 minutes, and then the mixer is stopped, left to cool down
and the composite is removed from the mixer. Then the material is
pressed at 177
C and 17 MPa for 5 minutes between Mylar sheets
that are placed between stainless steel plates. 0.8 mg pieces of film
are chipped off and placed between glass slides that are clamped in
place with binder clips. Two slides are prepared: one is placed in a
C oven for 5 minutes, and one which is placed in the same
oven overnight. Both slides are inspected visually and using
optical microscopy. These techniques reveal a lot of information
about the dispersion quality of the modified carbon blacks in the
different polymers and allow us to look for the effects of surface
Characterization of Dispersion Quality
Styrene acrylic resins:
We compare results obtained with typical toner industry
styrene acrylic polymers that differ primarily in their acid number
(AN): one is a neutral resin with a low AN, whereas the other is an
acidic resin with a medium AN. The optical microscopy pictures of
2 2
N N + 2 HX + NaNO + 2 HX + NaNO
2 2
2 2

X X + + NaX NaX + 2 H + 2 H
2 2
Carbon Black Carbon Black
Carbon Carbon
+ HX + N + HX + N
2 2 0
Base Carbon MCB - 1 MCB - 2 MCB - 3 MCB - 4 MCB - 5

NIP24 and Digital Fabrication 2008 Final Program and Proceedings 73

the various composites prepared at 2.5 wt% carbon black loading
before and after the overnight heating are shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Optical microscopy images of 2.5% carbon
black/styrene acrylic films at 100x magnification.

All materials form moderately good dispersions in the
polymer, as can be seen in the 5 min images. The Brabender mixer
creates enough shear force in the compound to disperse the
pigment and because the samples subsequently spent 5 minutes at
an elevated temperature the system state is frozen soon after the
shear force is applied. In fact, most pulverized toners would show
dispersion quality levels even better than what we can see in the 5
min images. This is due in large part to the higher shear forces
developed in commercial compounding operations where the
pigment loading is much higher (~7-10 wt%) than the pigment
loading for this experiment (2.5 wt%).
When we examine the overnight images, we can see that in
some cases, the pigment has flocculated in the polymers and
formed extensive networks. The base carbon appears to be
incompatible with both resins that were tested. This is evident from
the pictures of the slides that were left overnight at 200
C. On the
other hand, the oxidized MCB 4 shows good compatibility with
the medium AN styrene/acrylic resin and poor dispersibility in the
low AN resin. MCB - 1 shows good compatibility with both
polymers under all conditions. This is likely due to the specific
aromatic functionality that has been attached to the carbon black,
which has affinity to the styrene groups in the resin.
Polyester resins:
Reichhold Fine Tone T-382ES-HMW is a bisphenol-A
derived polyester with an acid number of 18 and was used as a
model polyester resin in this study. Materials were blended at 5
wt% loading. We observed the optical microscopy slides once they
were prepared, and realized that there was again a huge difference
in the dispersion of the various modified carbons. A picture of the
six slides is shown in Figure 6. The MCB - 1,2, and 3 slides are
clearly darker than the base carbon and the MCB 4 and 5. This is
an indication that these materials have dispersed much better into
the polyester resin, and thus can yield better color. The base carbon
and the two more hydrophilic carbons appear to have much poorer
dispersibility. We believe that this is attributable to the surface
chemistry on the MCBs. MCBs 1 and 2 are hydrophobic, and have
affinity for the aromatic component of the polyester, whereas
MCB 3 has an ester functionality, which is also compatible with
the resin.

Figure 6. Slides containing buttons of 5 wt% composites of
MCBs in polyester resins.
In this manuscript we have shared some of our findings on
how changing the surface chemistry of carbon black can have a
huge impact on its compatibility with the two main types of toner
polymers. Good compatibility is the first prerequisite to forming
and maintaining an excellent dispersion of the carbon black in the
toner that will help to maximize the toner performance.
[1] Jean-Baptiste Donnet, Roop Chand Bansal, Meng-Jiao Wang,
Carbon Black. Second Edition, Marcel Dekker, (1993).
[2] See for example US Patents 5,554,739 and 5,922,118.
[3] Reichhold website (
Author Biographies
Angelos Kyrlidis received his Diploma in Chemical Engineering from
the National Technical University of Athens, Greece (1987) and his PhD in
Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(1993). He worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Molten Metal
Technology before joining Cabot Corporation in 1998. His work has
focused on the development of new surface modified pigments for a variety
of applications, including toners.
Anne Shim received her Masters in Engineering from the Technical
University of Denmark, Lyngby (1997) and her PhD in Polymer Science
from the University of Akron (1998). She worked at Dow Corning before
joining Cabot Corporation in 2006. Her work has focused on the
development of modified pigment dispersions in organic solvents.
Low AN Medium AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
MCB - 4
Low AN Medium AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
MCB - 4
Low AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
Medium AN
MCB - 1
Low AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
Medium AN
MCB - 1
Low AN Medium AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
Base Carbon
Low AN Medium AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
Low AN Medium AN
5 min 5 min
Overnight Overnight
Base Carbon
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